F1 notes and quotes: Bahrain Day 4

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The final day of the first of two four-day tests for Formula One at the Bahrain International Circuit is in the books. Here’s a quick round-up of more notes and quotes from the teams:

  • Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, pace-setter on Saturday and overall, said the team doesn’t know yet where it stacks up in performance. But he did express a true comfort with the car, and said he was very happy with the team’s race simulations. More from Nico and Lewis Hamilton in the team’s post-test official Q&A.
  • McLaren’s running for the week totaled more than 1,600 km (296 laps), largely trouble-free. The team confirmed that for next week’s second round of testing in Bahrain, it will shift its car specifications to match what it will run at the Melbourne season opener.
  • Despite his incident, it was a good day of running for Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Of the spin, the Finn told Ferrari’s official website, “Hitting the barrier? I spun on the kerb at the exit of Turn 4, these things can happen! Luckily, it was right at the end of the day, I’m only sorry because it means the team now has more work to do.”
  • More happiness at Williams. Chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson on Felipe Nasr’s first day in the car: “He did a very good job. He gives good feedback, works well with his engineers and is quick.” Nasr himself? “It was a learning process for me, but I’m looking forward next time.”
  • Continuing the positivity theme, we head to Lotus and Pastor Maldonado, after completing 59 laps. “There was a lot of work with different settings, aero runs and similar which meant there was quite a lot to think about, but I think it all went well. The car was much more reliable which has helped with our work and hopefully it’s a good sign for next week,” said the Venezuelan.
  • The only Mercedes-powered car with issues on Saturday was Force India’s, with a drivetrain issue limiting Sergio Perez to just 19 laps. “With the amount of work involved in resolving the problem and the lack of time available, we decided it was better to regroup and put our efforts into achieving our objectives next week,” said team COO Otmar Szafnauer.
  • Pick your issue for Red Bull, it seems. Today was a further software problem, another mechanical issue, and some worse damage than anticipated after an installation lap made it a rough day at the office, per the team. “In all honesty it wasn’t a great day today,” said the usually optimistic Daniel Ricciardo.
  • What was deemed “a far from satisfactory day” with “several teething issues” was a nice way for Scuderia Toro Rosso to sugar coat its day. Even Jean-Eric Vergne’s lead in to his official post-day comments were allowed to be not flattering, and that says something. “There’s no point in making negative comments, because everyone knows we are facing major problems and we are not alone in that. We knew when we came to Bahrain that there had not been enough time since the previous test to have solved all our issues.”
  • Caterham only got four laps in before an electrical issue halted Marcus Ericsson’s day, although Kamui Kobayashi got back out in the afternoon. But the team was still the Renault-powered team that completed the most laps – 253 in all – during the week. “It’s obviously disappointing that we had limited running today due to an electrical issue with the power unit but we worked hard throughout the day to rectify that problem with Renault and add more mileage for the last hour, so it wasn’t a wasted day by any means,” said team deputy technical director Jody Egginton via the team’s website.
  • Today was a rare off day for Sauber after three good days prior to that. Team head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara said there had been an internal issue with the monocoque, which required a change in chassis. Adrian Sutil was limited in his first action since Wednesday.
  • Poor Marussia didn’t sort its issues out, with Jules Bianchi’s second day in the car netting only five laps with none realistically timed. The team said there was “a continuation of component reliability issues” that carried over from earlier i the week. At week’s end, only 29 laps completed, and more questions than answers.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.